Monday, November 29, 2010

Time is Flying

Today, I turn twenty-five years old.  I can't believe it.  Though my life is not exactly what I imagined at 15 (it was an unrealistic expectation that required mutually exclusive scenarios), I'm very happy with where I am.  I have a wonderful fiance, a house, two cats, a family who loves me, and caring friends.  There's not a whole lot more I could ask for at this point in my life.

As fast as the years fly by, the days are going even faster.  I am getting married in 19 days.  I still have a fair amount to do.  I still have to:
  • clean up the house
  • decorate for Christmas
  • buy and wrap bridal party gifts
  • buy and wrap Christmas gifts
  • send thank you cards
  • call the lady about making a quilt from my dress
  • tag and tie wedding favors
  • give a final count to the reception place
  • call/email DJ and photographer
  • call the church's coordinator to make sure we can fit a unity candle in the ceremony
  • clean the church the week of the wedding
  • figure out how to keep people from seeing me before I walk down the aisle
  • pick up my dress
  • pick up the flowers
  • breathe
We're coming down to the wire!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


So much has happened in such a short time!  On Saturday, I had a lovely little bridal shower.  Though it was a small affair, there were gorgeous decorations.  We had games, and my mom made an amazing cake.  As soon as I get the recipe out of her, I'll do a post on it.

On Sunday, I got gorgeous flowers and breakfast in bed courtesy of *B*.  It had been a while since he had gotten me flowers, and I was dead to the world that morning, so he slunk (slinked?  slank?) away and went out to Safeway.

Yesterday, my dad came over to show me how to make steak subs and help with wedding favors.  The subs were so good that I didn't get any pictures.  But trust me, yum.  Here's what I gleaned from yesterday:

Dad's Steak Subs
Slice a large onion into slices that can be broken into rings, but don't separate.  Heat up enough vegetable oil to coat a skillet.  Place the onion in and use a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce on each slice.  When starting to turn translucent, break up the rings, but do not slice them.  Remove from pan when brown, and do not let any piece remain.

While making onions, empty canned mushrooms into a saucepan with some seasoned salt and butter.  Keep them warm and stirred.

In the grease, put two sets of steakums.  Sprinkle them with a little salt and crushed red pepper.  Place them on paper towels to drain.  Cook two sets per sub.

In the leftover grease, squirt a large amount of ketchup and a few splashes of Tabasco sauce.  Stir in the grease and flavor bits.  Add more ketchup or Tabasco if needed.

On a cookie pan, place hoagie rolls.  Paint the sauce onto the insides of the rolls.  Layer the two sets of steakums lengthwise.  Put onions and mushrooms in, and cover with mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 350 until the cheese is melted.

Swoon.  Enjoy.  Leave no trace behind.

The wedding favors turned out terrifically.  Of these, I do have pictures.  We made three types: 

 chocolate chip
 oatmeal raisin
  super chunk
 They're so pretty!

*B*'s mom, my dad, and one of my bridesmaids came over to help stuff jars.  It only took 2 hours tops for almost 70 jars!

So many jars!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Special Simple Pleasure Thursday

In one month, I will be a married lady.  I have absolutely no jitters.  My feet are toasty warm thank-you-very-much.  As I sit here, sick as a dog for the third time this year, I realize for the umpteenth time that I have an amazing fiance.  He brings me blankets and wraps me up mummy-style.  He runs to get the thermometer even though he was just upstairs a second ago.  Every morning, even when I'm all sick and nasty, I get a kiss and "I love you" before he leaves for work, though often times I'm out cold.

*B* is the most gentle guy I know.  I've never seen him demean anyone, though he does make fun of his mom.  If you knew her, you'd understand why this isn't a bad thing.  He laughs at my jokes (and his own, amusingly enough).  He loves animals, sometimes more than humans.  He wants to make the world a better place even though it means meatless nights and scary lentil dishes.

He does his share of his housework (and often more).  I throw the laundry down the basement steps, and magically the clothes end up clean in a laundry basket waiting for me to fold and hang them.  He clears my "nucleation sites" (for non-geeks, that's the few dirty dishes in the sink after breakfast or dessert that cause a chain reaction of dirty dishes to appear all over my kitchen).

My simple pleasure today is having a mere month left until the beginning of an awesome marriage - and not being afraid of it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Winter Preparedness

It's just now starting to get cold here.  We haven't yet turned on our heat, but I know it won't be too long until we do.  I know that last year we turned it on sometime after Veteran's Day.  This year, we're going to hold out as long as possible.  Winter gets me in a preparedness mood, so as the cold sets in, my thoughts turn to prepping.

Where I live, the biggest emergencies that happen are winter storms.  We get ice storms and snow storms that can leave people stranded for days or weeks.  To make it even better, people here don't know how to drive in snow, and so they tend to get stranded pretty often.  To that point, a couple thoughts on winter needs.

In the Home - Everyday
Blankets are indispensable commodities at home during the cold season.  I don't believe I've ever been able to let myself get rid of a blanket.  Even right now, we're using spare blankets to keep the cats out from under our bed.  We keep a blanket permanently on the couch to prevent the desire to turn up the heat.  It's kind of like drinking a glass of water when getting hunger pangs.  If you put on the blanket and you're still cold 20 minutes later, then you can do something more about it.  The next step is preferably adding more clothing, but heat can be adjusted as well.

We tend to close off unused rooms in the winter.  Our basement door is closed, but we don't seal it off because our turtles, food, and laundry is down there.  Our office, though, does not get much use.  Starting in December, we close it off and put a draft dodger in front of the door.  Draft dodgers come in all shapes and sizes.  We tend to use an old towel, but I intend on making my own dodger by stitching a drawstring back with scraps and rags in it.  Both work equally well.  Since we have electric, baseboard heat, we close off rooms with heaters so that we're not heating a hallway.  This keeps the power usage to a minimum.  We even put foam covers inside of our electrical sockets to make sure that air could not enter that way.

Exterior pipes should be turned off and drained before the cold sets in.  On days when the temperature is above 40 degrees F, windows can be caulked and weatherstripping can be applied.  If snow is likely in your area, make sure that you have a working snow shovel, ice scrapers, and some salt in your house.  When we got snow last year, our shovel was in our shed at the back of our yard.  Fat lot of good that did out there.  Shovels and snow blowers went for a premium and sold out almost immediately when we got hit by the blizzard last year.

In the Home - Emergencies
If the power goes out for long periods of time, as tends to happen around here, there are things that can be done to keep heat in.  Blankets can be used to keep heat in one room by hanging them across doorways.  One can either set up a tent for the family to sleep in, or bring mattresses into one room to help consolidate warmth.  Be wary of creating your own heat sources in your house.  Houses burn down and people get poisoned from improperly used heat sources.  For those with gas stoves in their kitchens, the stove could be used to heat up a small area while preparing meals.

Every time there's a snow warning out here, Safeway floods with people and runs out of stock of major items.  Most mainstream stores use a just-in-time inventory strategy so that they only order as much as they think they'll sell before another truck comes in .  This is good for product rotation, bad for emergencies.  To combat this problem, we keep major necessities stocked.  Your necessities depend on your family, but toilet paper, road salt, and water are always big ones.  We make sure to always have cat food and litter, crackers, soup, cereals, and long term storage (grains).  Other pantry items vary, but those are staples for us.

In the Car - Every Day
Every day, summer or winter, I have a car kit.  My kit is in two crates - one for automotive needs, and one for human needs.  In my automotive needs crate, I have shop towels, antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, oil, car fluids, a turkey baster, a siphon, jumper cables, a jack, a lug wrench, and a 1 gallon gas tank (empty).  In my human needs crate, I have a change of clothes top to bottom, gloves, a hat, water bottles, granola bars, pen and paper, a pocket knife, an emergency blanket or two, a few flashlights, a large bath towel and a first aid kit. 

I'm actively trying to keep my gas tank at half full or above now.  Not only is it is smart so that you don't run out of gas, it keeps the engine running better.  Letting the gas get down to empty allows debris to collect and get stuck in the tank.

In the Car - Emergencies
I stocked my car kit so that it could be used in case of stranding or as a supplement to my work kit.  By keeping the kits stocked, I have supplies at the ready.  My car is a hatchback, so I don't have to worry about getting out of the car for supplies, I can just lift the lid.  I keep a flashlight and a window breaker/seat belt cutter in the well next to my seat.  They were Christmas presents one year, and I'm very grateful for them.  In keeping them next to my seat, I can use them if I somehow get stuck in the car.  I make sure that my supplies keep me warm, full, healthy, and in communication with the outside world.

Little House in the Big Woods

This evening, while listening to This I Believe on NPR, a woman mentioned Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Something stirred in me, and so I ran upstairs to see if I could find my book.  I know I have at least one, but I'm sure of one - the one I found was Little House in the Big Woods.  Oh how I love that book.

I read it in about an hour and a half  I lingered on passages that had fascinated me as a kid.  When I was little, I wanted desperately to make a smokehouse out of a dead tree with "fresh, sweet-smelling [hickory] chips" (Wilder, 7) smoldering in the bottom.

I love the description of the pantry:
"Now the potatoes and carrots, the beets and turnips and cabbages were gathered and stored in the cellar, for freezing nights had come. 

Onions were made into long ropes, braided together by their tops, and then were hung in the attic beside wreaths of red peppers strung on threads.  The pumpkins and the squashes were piled in orange and yellow and green heaps in the attic's corners. 
The barrels of salted fish were in the pantry, and yellow cheeses were stacked on the pantry shelves"  (Wilder, 12).
My favorite illustration is of Charles Wilder, playing Mad Dog with the girls.  The girls are huddled in a corner, and their Pa is playfully growling and chasing them around, hair afluff. 

It almost seems a cookbook, with instructions for preserving meat, harvesting honey and syrup, making and coloring butter and cheese, and butchering pigs.  Though I'm not sure I'll actually be able to do all these things (especially the last one), it inspires me to keep on keeping on with my mini-homesteading endeavors.  There are a few books of my childhood that I read again, but the Wilder books are a few that I cannot wait to read to my own children.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Simple Pleasure Thursday

My simple pleasure for today is being on a good path.  My dental appointment was not as horrible as I expected, though I have to go back since it'd been a while.  As of this morning, I'm on a regimen to get my mouth as healthy and teeth as white as possible before the wedding.  While I'm not going so far as to drink coffee through a straw, I am trying to minimize the time between eating and brushing as much as possible.

This week, I'm thankful for the veterans that keep our country (and others' countries) free.  I don't have a lot of relatives in the military, but my grandfather and cousin twice removed both served our country in time of war.  My grandfather was in the Pacific with the Navy during WWII.  I'm blessed to still have him with us, physically and mentally.  My cousin twice removed was deemed MIA in during the Vietnam War.  He was with the Rangers, and even though his friends saw him killed, the government refused to list him as KIA.  I've taken etchings of his name at the Vietnam wall.  Though I may not support the wars into which our country engages, I support our troops.  Two friends of ours deployed again on Monday.  I hope that they catch some slack today and make it home safely.

Awesome Day

It is 10 am, and it's already turned out to be an awesome day.  So far this morning, I've done so much.  I've gotten chickpeas soaking for homemade hummus tonight.  It'll be our first crack at homemade hummus, and I'm very excited.

After they started soaking, I cleaned out our kitchen pantry.  It was so gross.  We never use it, mostly because it's so inconvenient.  When I originally saw the design, I was excited.  Now I know that it's not so good because things tend to hide.  I had to throw out a number of items that had gone bad simply because we couldn't see them.  One thing in particular, was my McCann's oatmeal.  I had eaten all the steel cut oats, but because it was such a nifty tin, I threw some regular oats in there.  Somehow, somewhere, little brown bugs got in there.  I opened the sealed can, and it was swarming.  I'm still twitching just thinking about them.  But I scoured the rest of the pantry, went through the sealed bags, and didn't see other signs of infestation.  I'm hoping (though it grosses me out) that they came with the oats.

While I was cleaning though, it turned out I had sealed, bug-free granola makings in that pantry.  So I used my pumpkin spice recipe (found here) and made a whole 9 x 13 pan of granola.  Yum!

The reason I'm able to do all this today?  I have a dentist appointment.  I hate the dentist.  I was traumatized as a child by a dentist.  When I was about 8, he threatened to tie my teeth to the bumper of his truck and rip them out.  My mom thought he was funny, so we stayed until I was 14 or so.  Though I got Novocaine when I had fillings done, I always felt everything.  It wasn't until I had work done by a different dentist that I realized Novocaine makes it so that you don't feel the pain.  To top off the dentist trauma, I had 8 teeth pulled at the same time when I was 10 years old.  I get so riled up, that I end up taking off a whole day just for a 45 minute appointment.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Sweetness of Doing it Yourself

Tonight, *B* and I knocked out a whole bunch of projects that we've been putting off.  It's amazing how a few small changes make such a big difference. 

Some of the projects were little.  The globe fell off of the ceiling fan in our room weeks ago, and we never got around to putting it back up.  The curtains also fell down (a pattern here?), so we patched the holes in the wall and will put them back up tomorrow.

Some projects were a tad bigger.  Our windows leak both air and water like you wouldn't believe.  The air is awful because you can actually feel a breeze when walking by a window.  The water is only a problem with one set of windows.  There is what I can only assume is black mold that grows on our bedroom window frames.  I've never been able to scrape it off, no matter how hard I try.  More recently I've used vinegar, and it still does nothing.  Ideally, we'll replace the windows.  Until then, I'll probably have to remove the paint to get all of the mold.  Last year, we sealed the windows in with shrink wrap.  This year, we were able to put weatherstripping on the bottoms of the windows.  I can tell the difference almost immediately, and there's no effect on the use of the window.  In the picture below, you can see both the mold and if you look close enough, the weatherstripping:

While we were out getting supplies at Lowe's, we decided to spruce up the bathroom.  When Evie was little, she accidentally shredded the foam/plastic toilet seat that was here when we moved in.  We dealt with it, but it has annoyed me every day.  On top of that, the pieces in the bathroom don't look like they ever really meant to go together, so it's definitely my least favorite room of the house.  We have a white painted medicine cabinet with an oak-ish and faux marble sink.  The rest of the items in the bathroom are a kind of sand color.  So when we changed the seat, we got an oak-ish wooden seat.  It makes all the difference in the world.  Everything just goes together now and makes sense. 

We still need to replace the bathtub though.  It was an early 90s bathfitter job (I think) that was never properly done.  The pieces don't quite fit together:

The faucet was obviously not done by a professional because it doesn't actually reach the wall!  I can easily put my finger between the back of the faucet and the plastic of the tub.

This weekend, we'll finish by putting down a carpet strip where lovely little Evie tore up the carpet.  She's been a rather naughty cat over the past few weeks.  We lock her out of the room at night, and she tears at the door when she's hungry in the morning.  When I let her in, she tears at the bed!  I've been keeping a squirt bottle near me, but some damage has already been done at the interface between our bedroom carpet and the hallway carpet.  In the past, when she did this to get to a hamster, the carpet strip kept her from making it any worse.

 Finally, we decided to harvest our carrots and parsnips - in the dark.  There has been frost on the ground for a week, and the western part of the state is calling for 2-5 inches of snow this weekend, so it was time to pull them.  We got two and a half pounds between the two of them:
I'm ever so pleased that they did that well at least, considering I didn't thin them out at all.  Next year I know better.  We've begun planning our garden for next year and are very excited about some changes that will be coming about. Stay tuned for all the details on the new plan :o)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Simple Pleasure Thursday

My simple pleasure for today is being even-keeled.  My experiment went better than I can hope, and I can safely say that I am much happier for it.

I also decided that I will post what I'm thankful for on Simple Pleasure Thursday for the month of November.  This week, I'm thankful for being blessed in a down economy. We have good jobs, a house, reliable transportation, and good health care.  I always take time to thank God for these things.  Rather than focus on what we don't have this week, I'm focusing on being thankful for all the gifts we do have.  I'm working the "use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without" mantra right now.  If I can survive it a week, maybe I can work it long term, which would be ideal.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Midterm Elections

I voted today.  I don't think I've ever not voted as long as I've been able, including a primary when I was 17.  Sometimes its been a total pain in the butt to drive to the polling station (like when I was in college), but I've never regretted it.  It's a civic duty.  I'm a strong believer in "you shouldn't complain if you didn't vote."

I realized two things about myself with respect to politics today.

1)  If someone took the money that they were to put toward campaign spending and put it to the deficit rather than running ads, I would probably vote for them.  I'm really over all of the negative ads and sniping. 

2)  Voting for someone does not make someone one party or the other.  One votes for someone because one thinks they will be the best choice for the county/state/country now, not necessarily because they're a perfect match for one's personality.  Their affiliation should not be the first thing one looks for, nor should there be guilt just for aisle jumping.  I can safely say that I voted for people because they were the best option in my opinion, not because of the party affiliation.

Not a sermon, just a thought :o)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Midterm Report

I am very pleased to announce that my experiment is working very well!  I've been more happy and had more energy now than I have in a while.  I've been much better with my students, and we all seem to get along more.  Attitude is up, productivity is up, and even grades are up!

I really do think church has a lot to do with it as well as intentional thinking.  Last week, I skipped Mass because it was the first weekend I had to myself in a long time.  The week was long and difficult.  I went on Sunday (and I went to the mandatory school-wide Masses Friday and today, though that's unusual).  I really do feel much better - uplifted even. 

It's funny, when I was in ninth grade, I felt this way.  Then I had a falling out with the church over a number of issues and spent most of high school and college feeling alienated.  I really did.  I looked at this girl who was my RA, and she was always happy, radiant, and peaceful.  She was an active church member.  I remember wanting to be her, but never backing it up.  I feel that peacefulness now, and I'm so much happier.

I really feel my political opinions firming up as I age, too.  The midterm election is nearing quickly, and I've found myself knowing where I stand on issues like abortion, death penalty, fiscal responsibility, political organization, and human rights.  I was always a little squibbly, but I've figured out how to articulate to myself (not others in general) where I stand.  It's a nice feeling.

So in short - life is good.  I'm looking forward to posts from here on out being sunnier and more interesting :o)